Stitching for survivors of domestic abuse
Published in August, 2020
In 1989, members of the Greater Ann Arbor Quilt Guild (GAAQG) voted to donate profits from their quilt sales to SafeHouse Center. According to the group's website, they were inspired by a member's report said "that in Washtenaw County, there were more services for abused animals than for women who had been assaulted." They've been sending money (and quilts) ever since.
The guild's lifetime financial contributions now exceed $76,000. "Prior to the Covid pandemic, we sold quilt raffle tickets and held fundraising events to raise money for SafeHouse and the quilt guild, such as our popular annual Fabric Sale and Garage Sale events," says GAAQG president Susan Schwandt.
This year their biennial quilt show moves online, with 175 member-made quilts on display. From intricate florals to bold geometric patterns to quilts that incorporate nostalgic t-shirts, "there's something for everyone," says Schwandt. "Normally we charge an admission fee. This year we ask that viewers make that $10 donation directly to SafeHouse Center." The show features wall and bed quilts, art quilts such as a gallery inspired by Claude Monet's painting "Water Lilies 1916," and upcycled pieces. A special "SafeHouse Quilts for Sale" gallery includes more than 60 quilts; all are at least 60 x 80 inches and available to purchase for $250. Proceeds benefit SafeHouse Center, and unsold quilts will go to SafeHouse residents.
"When the pandemic first hit, it got eerily quiet for us." Says SafeHouse development director Deborah Kern. "We realized that survivors were being isolated in their homes and it was harder for them to reach out because of that. When things began to reopen, the phones started to ring." The shelter remained open throughout the pandemic, providing emergency shelter in hotel rooms when social distancing guidelines curbed capacity at its main facilities. One-on-one counseling and drop-in groups continue both virtually and in-person: these include ESL groups, an LGBTQ+ group, and a men's group. SafeHouse staffs a 24/7 helpline, helps survivors obtain
personal protection orders, and provides courtroom advocates, rent assistance, and more. "We're trying to serve a large and diverse population because we know that survivors come from all walks of life," says Kern.
Anyone in need of help can call the center's helpline at 734-995-5444. All services are confidential and free, made possible in part by donations from groups like the quilt guild.
The hundreds of quilts donated by the quilt guild each year mean that all survivors who stay at SafeHouse get their own quilt. "It provides comfort when you've been through trauma," says Kern. Quilters, too, have found comfort in the project. In the midst of the pandemic, Schwandt says, "it's wonderful and therapeutic for our members to focus their minds on helping the community."
Schwandt hopes that quilts "remind domestic violence survivors that there are people out there who care. "And Kern believes that they do: "People will tell us years later, 'I still have my quilt.'"
[Originally published in August, 2020.]
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